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How Scientists Around the World are Solving the World's Leading Issues

MISTI RadioAug 20, 2021

How Scientists Around the World are Solving the World's Leading Issues

How Scientists Around the World are Solving the World's Leading Issues

In this episode we have two special exceptionally global segments from our staff.

First we’ll go to Germany. Falling Walls is a conference and platform for emerging leaders in science, business, politics, arts, and society. It is based in Germany and indeed, coincides with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Dr. Shawana Tabassum is a scientist and named an Emerging Talent by Falling Walls. Why? Because she is making waves in “Neonatal Health disparities.” Her work made her a finalist at the World Science Summit in 2020.

MIT-Germany Managing Director Justin Lahey spoke with Dr. Tabassum about her award-winning work and participation in the Falling Walls competition. Take a listen.

Then, Ari takes a deep dive and talks about the effects of climate change on the city of Venice, Italy along with the scientists leading the efforts to curb its impact. Can Venice survive another 1000  years?

Aug 20, 202129:50
The Big Clean Energy Transition

The Big Clean Energy Transition

Climate Change is obviously a global issue. And there are organizations, companies, and cities trying to mitigate it through decarbonization, the process of reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and achieving a carbon neutral society.

The German American Business Council hosted a panel discussion on

Alternative Energy Models for a Low Carbon Transition. The panel included Jens Müller-Belau, Energy Transition Manager at Shell Germany (MISTI sends students to Shell for internships); and Philipp-Nikolas Otto, Market Research Manager at EnBW North America, a Germany-based energy company. The discussion was moderated by Annette Wiedenbach, a past Fellow of the Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT.

The panelists were asked questions like: What does it take to achieve a clean energy transition and how can energy companies help cities to become carbon neutral by 2030?

So, what did the panelists have to say about the future of energy technologies?

Aug 03, 202129:48
What's Next for the Scottish Independent Movement?

What's Next for the Scottish Independent Movement?

Riding off the major developments of the past few years, including Brexit and the pandemic, Scotland had a major parliament election back in May, which resulted in pro-independence party victories. Now the country may have another independence referendum in the near future.

The MIT Center for International Studies had none other than Scottish politician Ken Macintosh MSP talk about what’s happening in the country. Macintosh serves as presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament and has been a member for the West Scotland region since 2016.

In this upcoming recording from a previous CIS Starr Forum, he talks about the last 5 years of Scottish politics, as well as the formation of a new nationalist party in Scotland. Take a listen.

MISTI Radio is a production of MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives. You can listen to us on WMBR Cambridge, 88.1 FM, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Jul 06, 202129:44
The Perks of Knowing Russia in Space

The Perks of Knowing Russia in Space

On today’s show we have some audio from an event co-sponsored by our MIT-Russia program and the MIT AeroAstro department, featuring a NASA astronaut. You may have remembered a past episode of ours that featured astronaut-turned-investor Bernard Harris. But now we have an astronaut who will share the benefits of learning Russian as a space explorer.

Edward Michael Fincke graduated from MIT in 1989, he then joined NASA as an astronaut in 1996. He’s spent a total of 381 days in orbit.

He’s currently training for the first crew flight on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The vehicle will provide roundtrip crew transportation services to the International Space Station and, along with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, restart U.S. space launches.

Fincke is also fluent in Russian and Japanese. And his Russian skills have been pretty useful in being an astronaut. In this episode we will share why.

Fincke was interviewed by Piper Sigrest, a 2018 AeroAstro graduate, a third-year aerospace engineering PhD candidate at the University of Michigan, and an aspiring astronaut who’s been studying Russian since their time at MIT.

Jun 08, 202129:47
The South Asians of East Africa

The South Asians of East Africa

MIT-India and MIT-Africa were thrilled to team up to host a conversation with MIT alumni, students, and faculty on difficult but necessary topics around diaspora, race, inclusion, and identity. Today we are going to share parts of that conversation.

The event featured MG Vassanji, Class of 1974, a Kenyan-born, Tanzanian-raised South Asian who currently lives in Canada. Dr. Vassanji is a prize-winning novelist and while at MIT, he co-founded the MIT African Students Association.

The panel also included MIT history Professor Kenda Mutongi, author of Matatu: A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi; Also students Boluwatife Akinola, President of the MIT African Students Association; and Deekshita Kacham, President of the MIT South Asian Association of Students.

The panel discussion was moderated by MIT History Professor Sana Aiyar, author of Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora.

Prof. Mutongi and Dr. Vassanji illustrated the unique experiences of a generation of Africans who came of age in a period of decolonization, Africanization, and nation-building.

The student panelists offered their experiences as members and leaders of their identity-based affiliation groups on campus.

To listen to the entire recording, visit:

May 24, 202129:52
On Anti-Asian Violence

On Anti-Asian Violence

The shootings of six Asian women in Atlanta in March of this year may have felt like the apotheosis of Anti-Asian violence in the time of Covid. Hate crimes against Asians shot up about 150% in 2020 in the largest American cities. This was connected to the increase of anti-Asian sentiment that emerged from the spread of Covid-19 in the US.

Because of the origin of the virus, some Americans would call it the “China virus” or the “Wuhan virus.” Covid-19 was racialized, and the Asian community suffered because of it.

The shootings provoked responses and action on a national and local level. We wanted to share clips from a Starr Forum organized by the Center for International Studies and Chris Pilcavage, our Managing Director for the MIT Japan program. In these clips the panelists discussed the causes and those responses to anti-Asian violence.

First was Paul Watanabe, who is a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institute for Asian American Studies at UMass Boston. He served on President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and as the first Chair of the US Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations.

He gets into the history of the racialization and consequential treatment of Asians in America.

Next we wanted to share clips from Kathy Moon during the forum. She is a Professor of Political Science and the Wasserman Chair of Asian Studies at Wellesley College. She was a senior fellow and the Korea Chair at The Brookings Institution. Her research covers US-East Asia relations, the politics of North and South Korea, women and gender in international relations, social movements, and international migration. She talks about this unique form of intolerance and othering Asians experience, with a focus on the treatment of Asian women.

May 14, 202129:49
22 Countries By the Age of 22

22 Countries By the Age of 22

Ari recently had a chance to catch up with Kathleen Schwind, a 2019 MIT graduate from the Urban Studies and Planning program. Kathleen traveled extensively through MISTI while she was a student at MIT, making it to 22 countries by the age of 22. They caught up about her attraction to the world's most intractable problems and the role of water in middle east peace building.

After, we wanted to feature a country we haven’t before on the show, and that is Mexico. We have an interview from Griselda Gomez, the Managing Director of the MIT Mexico program, and Diana Rentería, a participant of Mexico Global Teaching Labs.

Apr 30, 202129:48
On Japanese Film and the State of Research in Spain

On Japanese Film and the State of Research in Spain

On today’s show, we have some clips from the Boston Japan Film Festival. If you don’t know, the Boston Japan Film Festival is a single-day event that connects New England to Japanese culture through cinema. The festival was held online this year, with virtual film showings and discussions. There was a particular short documentary that we wanted to highlight called “Nourishing Japan” about Japan’s 2005 Food Education Law as it pertains to feeding young students. It was followed by a discussion with the director, Alexis Agaliano Sanborn, and cookbook writer Debra Samuels.

After we have Ari interviewing research scientist and MIT professor Mercedes Balcells, where they talk about the research landscape in Spain.

Apr 16, 202129:53
Building the Brazilian Fiddle

Building the Brazilian Fiddle

The rabeca probably not an instrument many people would be familiar with. If you’ve never seen one before, you could look at it and compare it to a violin, but the comparison kind of stops at the visual similarities. So when the opportunity came to learn more about it, I jumped at the chance of talking about it in an episode. And that’s what we’ll get to do today.

Adam Bahrami, a friend of the MIT-Brazil program, is here to tell the story of the rabeca.

Apr 08, 202129:49
The South Asian Oral History Project

The South Asian Oral History Project

The discussion of Universal Basic Income, a program where the government issues cash to its citizens on a consistent basis, is quite contentious in America, coming in and out of the mainstream political discourse through the years. It most recently became a hot issue during Andrew Yang’s presidential run. But it’s not a policy limited to the United States.

UBI was implemented in Kenya and through new research, has been considered a successful program in lifting up Kenyans, especially those living in poverty.

MIT Africa hosted a keynote about UBI in Kenya, featuring Associate Professor of Applied Economics here at MIT, Dr. Tavneet Suri.

Mar 04, 202101:00:00
A Q&A with MIT Alum Jamshied Sharifi from "The Band's Visit"

A Q&A with MIT Alum Jamshied Sharifi from "The Band's Visit"

In 2018, the Broadway hit "The Bands' Visit," won a slew of Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best original score, best actor, and best actress. It also won best orchestration, which was awarded to Jamshied Sharifi, an Iranian-American composer and MIT alum.

Sharifi received his degree in Humanities at MIT, then went on to study at Berklee College of Music. Before the Band’s Visit, he scored multiple films, recorded his own albums, and produced and arranged for other musicians and bands.

MIT-Israel, Arts at MIT, and MIT Hillel organized this event with Sharifi that you will hear soon. During this special virtual event, he talked about what it was like working on the Broadway hit, incorporating Middle Eastern influences to his music, and how his MIT degree continues to be relevant as a musician. So take a listen. Here’s Jamshied Sharifi.

We also interviewed our very own Candi Deblay, the new MIT-France program manager at MISTI. France is just one of the many countries we send MIT students, but it’s a unique place for cultural experiences and internships. I spoke with Candi about what it was like living abroad in France, and the advancing industries that may be appealing to MIT students.

Feb 09, 202101:00:01
The Great Tech Disruption and Evolution in Africa

The Great Tech Disruption and Evolution in Africa

Nacho Nwana, a recent MIT grad who double majored in Management and Political Science. As a Nigerian-American, he had looked to travel to Africa through MISTI, but with all trips halted for most of 2020, he couldn’t get there. As a way to get connected to the continent, he interned at a Senegal-based start-up called LOOKA, and launched his own podcast: “Africa Unveiled.”

Ari spoke with Nacho to discuss the work he’s been doing as an intern at LOOKA, what he’s learned about the digital landscape in countries like Nigeria, and even how bitcoin is used in Africa.

In a student-submitted piece, MIT-Brazil's managing director and faculty director have a conversation about the MISTI Brazil experience. 

Jan 28, 202101:00:01
How a NASA Astronaut Wants to Transform Telemedicine

How a NASA Astronaut Wants to Transform Telemedicine

On this episode, we want to show you the ways telemedicine and energy industries are being transformed around the world. These two sectors may sound disparate, but there is actually something they have in common, and that’s the goal of efficiency.

Countries may have trouble catching up with the current era of rapidly-evolving technology. Telemedicine can only work if it’s accessible. You can’t get the care you need if you don’t have the right device to receive it.

In the energy sector, companies are working against time to slow or eliminate the effects of climate change.

There are many in the MISTI community that are primed to address these issues, and we will be featuring them in this episode, one industry at a time.

Dec 18, 202045:32
“The world's full of problems to be solved”: Celebrating 20 Years of Global Startup Labs

“The world's full of problems to be solved”: Celebrating 20 Years of Global Startup Labs

This year, Global Startup Labs, or GSL, celebrated 20 years sending MIT students abroad to teach other students about entrepreneurship and help realize their startup ideas.

GSL managers, students, alumni, and founders congregated via Zoom to commemorate and reflect on their achievements. Over 300 MIT students have instructed thousands of GSL students across 4 continents. Startups that were incepted in GSL have gone on to become successful companies. The impact that GSL has made makes the program a special and important part of MISTI. There aren’t many programs out there like GSL.

Dec 07, 202001:00:01
MISTI Radio Hall of Fame

MISTI Radio Hall of Fame

Every year we send over a thousand students to over 25 countries, and we have a few who really stand out for different reasons. Because of this we have unofficially created the MISTI Radio Hall of Fame, featuring students who have gone on five different MISTI trips. We have two of those students, including Richard Colwell. Through MISTI, Richard has been to France, Israel, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and would have gone to China this summer. We encourage students to not just intern with us during their time at MIT, but go multiple times. It’s a joy to work with students who want to do that, and are strong advocates for MISTI.

Jierui Fang is our second inductee into the MISTI Hall of Fame. She traveled to Kazakhstan. France, Brazil, China, and Jordan; super impressive. Like Richard she has a good number of stories to share about her trips, and how those experiences have influenced her perspective on the world.

Nov 18, 202055:00
The State of Digital Transparency in Denmark

The State of Digital Transparency in Denmark

The MIT-India team recently caught up with MIT alum Uma Girkar who founded the Smart Learning, Eating, Exercising and Thinking program also known as SLEET program. It is a public health and education program which Uma and other MISTI participants have conducted in various countries globally. In this interview, Uma speaks with MIT student Enriko Granadoz Chavez and exchanges stories about the SLEET program they conducted during their MISTI experiences.

Denmark is among the most digital countries in the EU according to the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) by the European Commission. But at a time when the threat for misuse of data is real and new concerns about data ethics are emerging, are Danes being too naïve? Or could their high standards on digital responsibility and transparency lead the way to a more harmonized digital future?

Political science professor and MIT-Denmark faculty director Kathleen Thelen moderated this conversation with Søren Juul Jørgensen, a mentor for Danish tech startups, and 2021.AI Chief Technology Officer Rasmus Hauch. 2021.AI provides AI technology to companies at scale, providing comprehensive solutions.

Jørgensen is the former CEO at the Innovation Center Denmark in Silicon Valley, which aids Denmark startups in research and investments. There is also a center in Boston, which facilitates Danish companies establishing themselves in the city.

Jørgensen is additionally a research fellow at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University. He founded Forest Avenue, a tech consulting firm.

Oct 16, 202053:20
The Black History of France Part 2

The Black History of France Part 2

We have a really cool segment submitted by a student who spoke with students and alumni who traveled to Brazil either through MISTI or Fulbright. But first, we’re going to pick up where we left off on the last episode where Brigid and Ari interviewed Kevi Donat. If you don’t know, Kevi is a French tour guide that mainly focuses on the often overlooked black history of Paris. He leads his guests through the streets and offers an alternative narrative to what may be a typical understanding of Parisian history.

In the second part of this interview they go beyond history and really get into the contemporary inequities that manifest in France whether it’s the racial wealth gap, white supremacist protests, and how this idea of freedom from religion, which is popular in France, can hurt black and brown communities. What is most interesting about the rest of this interview is that they discuss how the US perception of France differs from the reality, and how charged racial discourse has actually “globalized” and even was inspired by what’s happening here in the United States. I think it’s really important to point that out when we talk about racial justice.

Sep 21, 202059:60
The Black History of France

The Black History of France

In this episode, we feature Keví Donat, a French tour guide and founder of Le Paris Noir who provides, quote, “an alternative and authentic vision of” Paris, mainly through the lens of Black history, a perspective that’s often overlooked. In partnership with MIT-France they hosted a discussion on post-colonial France.

But the conversation didn’t end there. After the event our program assistant Brigid McMahon and Ari Jacobovitz spoke more extensively with Keví about the history of race, religion, and class in France, cultural identity, and so much more that we had to split the interview into two parts. Let’s get into the first half.

Also in this episode: Amy Vogel is an MIT 2020 graduate with two MISTI Israel internships under her belt and will move across the Atlantic to begin her post-grad life in the country. It’s one thing to spend 3 to six months abroad, it’s entirely another to relocate from your native country, but Amy is excited and ready to do it

Sep 09, 202059:14
Student Spotlight: Identity and Philosophy

Student Spotlight: Identity and Philosophy

Today we’re putting a spotlight on two MIT students; Rahul Ramakrishnan, who participated in the MIT-India program, and Mercedes Riley, who presented a philosophy workshop for girls all around the world.

Aug 25, 202059:57
Proceed with Caution

Proceed with Caution

As a whole, MISTI has had to forgo almost all travel for students, staff, and faculty. It was difficult to come to terms with this as a program that centers around traveling. But two staff members made the decision to fly out of America. Matt Burt, Korea Program Manager, and Marco de Paula, Brazil Program assistant, went to… well Korea and Brazil respectively. Africa Managing Director Ari Jacobovitz interviewed them about their experiences, and how they compared to each other.

Also, COVID-19 has sent shockwaves through higher education in the U.S. and around the world. Today we will share excerpts from a panel of MISTI international partner organizations to learn about how the pandemic has impacted their operations, and what the future holds for universities globally.

Aug 10, 202059:58
What Makes a Country Trust their Government?

What Makes a Country Trust their Government?

As a whole, MIT is always looking to connect with the rest of the world in innovative ways that bring change. Students are a crucial part of that mission. Today you get to hear from two MIT undergraduates who are committed to inspiring their community to learn more about Africa.

Also in the episode, we hear from our own faculty. It’s probably no surprise that a country’s response to a pandemic is correlated to the social norms of that country. At a recent panel, professors shared insights on how culture has played a role in a country’s shared response to the pandemic.

Jul 27, 202058:39
Working Somewhere Between Home and Abroad

Working Somewhere Between Home and Abroad

In this episode, we have our students and partners from the U.K. and Denmark who are addressing inequities related to food and STEM spaces. While these are issues that are prevalent in the U.S., we wanted to share the work others are doing in those countries. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

We also have interviews with MISTI alumni who have extensive experiences with the countries where they have interned. Conor Kirby is one of our students who had to convert his in-person internship at Sumitomo Heavy Industries in Japan, to a remote one, where he would continue working in his home country of England. Andrea McClave, a MISTI alum who interned at the FoodLab at Denmark Technical University was hired permanently.

Jul 13, 202057:27
How the World Keeps Turning

How the World Keeps Turning

On this episode of MISTI Radio Podcast we talked with program partners from India and Denmark. With Covid continuing to spread, how does India adapt to ensure the security and safety of its people? Sloan graduates Hank Levine and Anirudh Sharma discuss how their companies are adapting to keep people employed and provide PPE sustainably in India, respectively.

Though 66% of families in Denmark are traditional nuclear families living together, 44% are either co-parenting, single, in an open relationship, or in another living arrangement. The type of housing that will be built needs to adapt. So what can city planners and architects do? How can housing be more flexible for an unknown future? Ofri Earon, Architect and PhD at Ramboll, a consultancy in Denmark, discusses these questions and more.

Finally we have an interview with Evan Lieberman, Professor of Political Science and Contemporary Africa at MIT and the new Faculty Director for the MIT-Africa program. In his interview with Managing Director Ari Jacobovitz they talked about what they’re looking forward to for the program.

MISTI Radio is a project from MIT International Science and Technology initiatives. You can listen to us on WMBR Cambridge, 88.1 FM. or wherever you get your podcasts.

To learn more, visit

Jun 29, 202059:42
Climate, Communications, and COVID

Climate, Communications, and COVID

On this episode we have a special interview and talk to share; both about how COVID-19 affects things from communications to climate change.

Ari Jacobovitz, Managing Director of MIT-Africa, interviews Michala Mackay, the Chief Operating Officer and Director of the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation in Sierra Leone. DSTI seeks to “transform Sierra Leone into an innovation and entrepreneurship hub.” In her work Mackay implements Sierra Leone’s National Innovation and Digitization Strategy to make technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship integral to the development of the country.

In this interview Mackay discusses how the people and the government of Sierra Leone are responding to COVID-19, what the Directorate is doing, and how technology is playing an important role in conducting real-time analysis, communicating updates, and connecting people with each other in this situation.

Next are excerpts from a Starr Forum hosted by MIT-Brazil and the MIT Center for International Studies. On April 24th they invited Dr. Carlos Nobre, an MIT-Brazil program partner, to talk about how the COVID-19 crisis reveals how balancing tropical ecosystems can actually reduce this risk of future pandemics.

Dr. Nobre is Brazil’s leading expert on the Amazon and climate change. He is currently a Senior Scientist at University of Sao Paulo's Institute for Advanced Studies, chair of the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change and co-chair of the Science Panel for the Amazon. Nobre received a PhD in Meteorology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

MISTI Radio is a project from MIT International Science and Technology initiatives.

May 11, 202058:14